Betina Taylor won the blue ribbon for canned peaches at the Huntingdon County Fair in 1970. Betina’s name appeared in “The Huntingdon Daily News” as did all other winners of canned fruits, vegetables and preserves that year. She used her $8 winnings to get drunk at Keller’s bar in downtown Huntingdon. While celebrating her accomplishment as being published as one of the best potential house-wives in the county, she confessed to a bar tender that evening that she had cheated in winning the top prize. She thought the entire affair was really quite hysterical, especially since most people in Huntingdon thought of Betina as more of a tomboy than the dainty, girlish women who almost always took blue ribbons from the county fair.
Betina wore her silky, blue prize like a necklace as she sat at Keller’s and ordered a second Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. A beer was only fifty-cents then, and peaches were a dime a dozen in August.
The ribbon she took home from the fair was draped like a flag around her freckled neck. It rested between her sweaty cleavage like a wet piece of toilet paper stuck to an ass that had just been spanked. She blabbed loudly with a red face and guzzled her beer like men who surrounded her. Even the young farm boys at the back of the bar playing pinball heard her story.
She described, as she chugged down her beer like a thirsty cow, how she managed to fool the “expert judges” who were “supposed to be so fucking knowledgeable about canning”, but in reality knew nothing. The judges at the fair never actually tasted what was packed neatly inside of jars. She had proven her hypothesis that her father’s peaches were the sweetest in all of Huntingdon, but never as yellow as was needed to secure the top spot at the Huntingdon County Fair. Betina figured out how to can peaches that were as golden as the sun in morning or at sunset, and as she ordered a third beer, and patrons at the bar gathered nearer to her and sat on round bar stools, the truth about the winning peaches from 1970 spilled out that night. They all laughed like little girls when she finally told them the truth, and by the time all her winnings had been spent that night, the beers kept coming, because in Keller’s Bar, Betina never needed a dime of her own to get drunk and would treat anyone who was thirsty, as long as she still had money in her blue jeans.
The Taylor family of Stone Creek Ridge won several second- place red ribbons and cheesy, third-runner-up, white ribbons, for their peaches in the 1960’s, Never until Betina did the canning on top of an old, cast-iron, wood-burning cooking stove, did the peaches from George Taylor’s orchard take the coveted spot at the county fair.
“What kind of jars did you use?” The bartender asked, wiping the polished oak bar top with a wet white cloth. “They say the old blue- tinted Bell jars with porcelain lids work better than those new Mason jars with flat lids and a screw- on ring.” He carefully placed a fresh napkin under Betina’s beer, making sure to keep the beverage far enough from Betina’s swinging arms that moved just as fast as her thin, lips.
“Those old jars are a pain in the ass,” Betina explained. “Half of them don’t seal shut. I used Mason jars and didn’t even need a pressure cooker. Mom always put lemon juice and salt on her peaches before she stuffed them into jars, but the damned things never turned orange like mine did. I never understood why she canned so many damned peaches anyway. She always sold them, and I bet if you factored in the cost of the sugar it took to make a syrup bath that they are canned in, she lost money in the process. How can they figure out who has the best canned peaches at the fair if they never taste the damned things?” Betina asked the crowd.
“They look for blemishes on the fruit, how it was pealed, and stuff like that,” an old man holding a shot of whisky over his dry lips and unshaven chin explained. It was Joe McCall whose wife, an excellent canner, had passed onto glory two years prior, and Joe missed the hell out of having a good woman around.
“You are goddamned right they look for soft spots and stuff like that. That’s my big secret– how to get perfectly round peaches, all of the same size, into a jar without them looking homemade or all mushy,” Betina shot back. “Just wait until next year, I’ll win all the fucking ribbons if I want.”
Joe McCall slowly sipped his whiskey and wondered if ever Betina would get drunk enough at the bar to at least offer him a blow job.
“You goddamned Taylor’s are all a bunch of fucking crooks, just quit bragging and tell us how you cheated the contest judges, like that sister of yer’s, ‘the Red Arrow Bea’. Why don’t you tell us all how she done canned half the drunk fuckers that come into this bar,” a man with a hanky over his balding head shouted. A long gray pony- tail rested on his left shoulder atop a black t-shirt that was heavily dotted in white dandruff.
“You gotta wash yer jars good, in hot, soapy water first,” Betina explained, ignoring the ignorant man. “And then after you wash all the suds off, you gotta keep the jars in real hot water until the peaches are stuffed in. That prevents infections from getting in, like it does your peckers. You know, some people die from eating shit that ain’t canned right. Some people will even cook their peaches for a minute or two to soften them, but Mom never did, neither did I.” Betina laughed, burped, took a deep breath and continued– “Don’t ever forget to leave a little space at the top of the jar so air can get in and so the fruit settles just perfectly. Make sure you got a rack to put the jars on, cause if you put them right in boiling water, they’ll bump up against each other and crack. I only boiled my peaches for about ten minutes. When I took them out, I made sure to shut all the windows in the house because they say that if there is a draft, the jars will not make that popping sound and seal shut.”
“You ain’t telling us nothing about canning we didn’t already know,” the bartender insisted. “I bet it’s those peaches your daddy planted up there on the ridge, years ago, before he died. His peaches are the real reason why you took home the blue ribbon. He was such a good farmer.”
“You wanna know why I won?” Betina asked, reaching for her can of beer. “I didn’t even use those fucking peaches from dad’s trees. I’m so goddamned sick of those things, I could just spit. We was poor you know. Hell, sometimes, I ate canned peaches for breakfast before going to school and had to shit before class even started. Is it any wonder I turned out so damned dumb? Well I guess I’m not that dumb, because I won $8 for taking two cans of peaches I bought at the store and canned them the old-fashion way. Mom watched me do it. Said I should be ashamed of myself for even trying it. Well guess what? These Blue Ribbon’s tasted pretty damned good.” Betina laughed loudly and grabbed the blue ribbon around her neck as if it were an expensive string of pears and waited until one of the men offered to buy her another beer.
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